Thursday, August 9, 2012

lessons learned: Not involving your kids

A few months ago, we had to make a tough decision, one that greatly changed our participation in SCA events. We had to make the decision to not involve our kids as much in our hobby. Specifically, we decided not to take the kids to camping events, at least until they don't require the high level if supervision they need now.

Back in the fall, after a VERY long, uncomfortable night in which the non-kid friendly camping atmosphere, and the twins not knowing how to handle sleeping in the tent forced us to sleep in the van Friday night, we packed up the camp and went home Saturday after evening court. We also had a very difficult time getting the kids away from camp during the day, since there only ever seemed to be one adult with the kids for a good chunk of the day.

We left the three older kids home in the spring, and took the baby with us to camp 3 hours away at Coronation. A thunderstorm blew through camp right before we got there, and flooded the camping field. The option presented was to sleep in a large open room (a metal pole building) with everyone else. Because we were with a baby, we decided this was not the choice for us, and went to find the nearest hotel. No dice. We slept in the van again, with A nestled in the back of the van with almost all the blankets. He slept relatively well, but we did not.

We tried again at Border Raids, with all four kids again. Saturday was miserable- it was hot, and the kids were stuck at camp because each of the adults had to take turns with them because of our commitments. The twins were bored, they hated being in the tent to sleep, and they screamed and cried almost the whole time. After dinner, we packed it up and went home, not staying Saturday night. Again.

The next day, we sat down and made the decision. We each (including my mom, who we usually go to events with) have interests and commitments at events, and while we want our children to understand and like our hobby, we can't throw out our commitment as parents just to get in some good SCA time. The comfort and opinion of our children has to come first.

The twins don't like camping in general, O doesn't like being stuck at camp, and A's been put in one too many awkward and slightly dangerous sleeping situations. And stuck at camp with four uncomfortable kids and nothing to be done about it makes me feel like my family is a freak show when our campmates shoot us sidelong, irritated glances.

Along with this choice, we realize that bringing all four kids to a day camp poses the same sorts of challenges. We've realized over the summer that, if we want to continue being involved, we can't create situations in which one of us gets stuck at the day camp with the kids. And if there isn't a plan for what to do with the kids at the event, it's probably not going to end well.

I want my kids to go to events. I want them involved. But I also don't want to be selfish at the expense of the kids' moods. Before each event, we plan. Who will go? How many kids? What will the kids do there? It is worth taking any kids, given the site, the weather and our personal commitments?

We were foolish, in retrospect, to believe that we could continue to attend events with four young kids in the same manner we attended them with one. This has been a learning process for us, and we believe we've made the best choice for us and our family at this time to not involve our kids at the same level we were. It saddens me- I feel like we could do better as a modern medieval family to find a better solution for all of us to camp and enjoy an event- a full event- together. We'll get there eventually, though- we just need to work it all out.


  1. I really appreciated this post. I have felt similar things regarding our participation in 1860's events. We also have been learning how to leave our kids (or at least one or two of them) at home to make sure that everyone has the best experience possible. It made me feel so guilty to come to that decision but reading your post made me feel much better - I think it IS better for the kids to not be forced into situations they may not particularly enjoy. There are still a few events (1860's or otherwise) where we will take all of them, but likely not for overnight and not events where hubby and I will have scheduled activities to participate in.

  2. this post really resonated with me. I only have one and he's almost two and half. I tried bringing him to some events early on but as the only participating parent it made things very difficult. I've also decided not to involve my son until he is older for many of the same reasons you listed. I have been wondering whether or not I had made the right decision. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one that has had to make it!

  3. I to have had to make a similar decision, however, my husband feels he has responsibilities in the Society that cannot be sacrificed. So in compromise, we only attend local events as a family and I have given up all my persuits and spend the day basically as sole child-care with a few breaks he gives me when he can. Luckily I have found one other set of new parents who have the same issues and so we now pitch our day pavillion and share it with them and I have company during the child care duties from the other mother. It really helps when one child needs to potty and the other child does not because I can take my older son to go pee without worrying about the baby. But I also want to say that my older son agrees with your kids. SCA is dull for kids, and children's activities are minimal at best. It sucks.